This 800-Square-Foot West Village Apartment Is a Colorful, Shapeshifting Space

Ethan Herrington

Interior designer Juan Carretero isn’t one to settle, least of all in matters regarding his home. So when he came out of a nearly 20-year-old relationship and moved out of the home he shared with his ex-partner, finding a rental in Manhattan he could use as a pièd-a-terre (he had already established a primary residence in upstate New York) was top priority. It was an exercise easier said than done, and the more apartments he visited, the more disillusioned he became. “I toured dozens of dismembered places with showers inside the kitchen, views into a wall, closets the size of a toaster, no closets whatsoever. I said no to them all,” recalls Juan, the founder and principal of New York–based multidisciplinary collective Capital C Interiors.

There was no room for a bar, so Juan (pictured) searched high and low for a piece of furniture that would double as one. His answer came in the form of a vintage rolling dry bar, which he found online, quickly bought, and subsequently designated between two doorways in the living room. A striking blue painting by Natalia and Alexander Gore, titled Blue Moon, sits atop it, as does Eye, a smaller artwork by Emilio Villalba. The chair is a vintage novelty.

By the time he found something that felt right, his broker, as he recalls, had pretty much given up on him. “I had said no and ew to so many places that I couldn’t blame him,” jokes Juan. “This time I was told the apartment’s door would be open and to call if I was interested. You could hear him sigh while his eyes rolled up!”

The Ventura white oak bookshelf by Lawson-Fenning for CB2 in the living room is a Wunderkammer of beautiful objects, including a table lamp with a raffia shade by Gordon Martz. The painting with the green backdrop is Geoff Chadsey’s Ochre Selfie.

Still, his first memory of that visit isn’t particularly bright. The home was being repainted in a yellowy cream. “My first thought was, Why would they choose such a crusty color?” But the living room was bathed in light and dogwood trees visible outside were bursting with flowers. Surely, it was a sign. “I promptly called the broker and mumbled, ‘I think this is it, tell me it’s still available.’” Of course, it was not. There were two other hopeful applicants. By the time he finished submitting (what felt like) hundreds of DocuSigns that night, he already had a vision for the home.

The dining room isn’t much of a room at all, but rather a corner of the living room that Juan zoned off with a vintage Saarinen Tulip table, some midcentury walnut chairs, and a plant atop a custom pedestal. “It feels like a world unto its own,” muses the designer, who credits the umbrella-like Swiss cheese plant for evoking the spirit of a quiet cocoon. A fuschia framed print by Zoe Bios enlivens the wall, while a yellow rippled canvas sculpture by Gary Jurista adds a touch of whimsy.

The first thing Juan did when he got the keys was paint the walls white, and more specifically Benjamin Moore’s Simply White—a shade not too cold for winter, nor too warm for summer. Because he couldn’t change the layout, he sectioned it off instead, fashioning a dining nook in one corner of the living room. Some things, such as the old casement metal windows in the living room, he embraced as part of the home’s character. “It overlooks a charming courtyard surrounded by the thing I love most about New York: its [various] characters,” Juan laughs. As for the bedroom—the home’s only one—he added a hydraulic bed to optimize space during the day.

“The kitchen is very tiny but very cute. I don’t ever cook, but it’s probably my favorite room of all,” says Juan, who found the floor reminiscent of the haciendas in his native country, Mexico.
“The kitchen is very tiny but very cute. I don’t ever cook, but it’s probably my favorite room of all,” says Juan, who found the floor reminiscent of the haciendas in his native country, Mexico.
Ethan Herrington

Because the artworks were many and the walls were not, Juan decided to rotate the pieces that didn’t have a home. “I move them around all the time to learn how they influence my mood or a certain aesthetic,” says the Mexican-born designer, who admits he’s more into color now than he was pre-pandemic. “I think it’s important to keep surprising yourself and to allow your taste to evolve. The world seems like such a fragile place lately. I like to be surrounded by art that inspires a sense of optimism.” He has other rituals that keep him happy, too, such as a tropical-sounds playlist he streams via Alexa for his Swiss cheese plant.

The home’s only bedroom shape-shifts to suit the occasion, thanks to a hydraulic Lid bed by Blu Dot that stows away when not in use. “The big round mirror helps bounce sunlight and creates trippy reflections through the day,” says Juan of the vintage find, which is flanked to the right by a 1960s Danish teak scissor sconce from Lyfa. A painting of wrestlers by an unknown artist enhances the wall.
One corner of the bedroom is dominated by a Brutalist walnut armoire. Beside it sits a vintage leather chair that offers a sunny perch on slow evenings. The nook is as calm as it is curious, with a small framed polaroid of a penis by Andy Warhol.

Juan knows this apartment has an expiration date, but he’s happy about the memories he’s made in the space. “It’s going to be extremely hard to say goodbye to this home,” he says. “I often think about the [previous owners who] must have slept in these rooms. I’d like to think they were all as happy as I was here, and that the ones in the future will be as well.”

In the bathroom, Juan painted the ceiling a bottle green to add a bit of cheer. “That’s really all you can do in a rental,” avers Juan, whose little trick gave the space an instant boost of personality. The shower curtains are by HAY.

Originally Appeared on Architectural Digest

More Great Stories From Clever